INTERVIEW: Tim Smith
Margen Magazine (Spain)
April 2001 (writeen by Luis Gonzalez)
Tim, after 24 years playing music, do you think it’s time for a massive acknowledge of your work, or maybe you are confortable as a cult band?
We are totally a lot more than comfortable as a ‘cult’ band…it means we can do what we want, when we want, and we would not have it any other way… ‘cult’ just means “not very famous” anyway.
From my point of view, Cardiacs is “The Unqualifiable Band”, but if we have to look for a style for you, what about “the band which did a hybrid between punk and prog rock?
Sorry Luis Gonzalez but I’ve got to tell you that I really very very very much hate that comparison… It sums up a horrid image in my head…. Enjoying the occasional bit of sex pistols or the odd bit of Henry Cow or whatever doesn’t really qualify me as being a punk fan or a prog fan, I don’t know what I’m a fan of.
A lot of time has passed since we started playing tunes and we’ve always played what we play, ever since we were all about 14-15 years old, it is what it is, whatever the fuck that is….. I don’t know what it is…. obviously the question “can you define your music?” has been asked to us a billion times now… we’ve had over 20 years to think about it and we still haven’t bothered to come up with an answer…. to be honest we’ve never really tried, maybe life would have been a bit easier if we had….
I think we are a ‘pop’ group but apparently that isn’t it either…..yes, I’d definitely say pop….but the kind of pop that probably hasn’t been done that much ever in the world.
I’d say that the influence of Gentle Giant, Zappa, Devo, Foetus have been important for you? Are you OK with this opinion?
I don’t know what influences us really, I wouldn’t say that we are influenced by any actual bands in particular, I’ve got no bones about musically ripping someone else’s band off though…. I’ve definitely nicked bits and pieces here and there, I don’t mind if they don’t mind…. I remember working on one song we did a little while ago which was based just on the memory of a song I heard by someone else way back when I was about 14 years old, trouble was that it ended up quite similar to the original, I didn’t care, but the audacity of it raised a few wiggly eyebrows, the actual tune I wrote was totally different and all that… but the atmosphere was very similar, which pleased me as it was that which I was trying to rekindle…. I thought my memory of it had twisted the atmosphere into this new creature, but as it turned out my memory wasn’t that bad… but so what, tunes are for borrowing, you give them all back in the end.
‘Influences’ come more from random or abstract things… like I might walk past a radio playing something nice in somebodies window…. or I’ll hear a ghost in the bushes, or whatever, and I’ll think ‘oooh I’ll do a song like that’ but it’ll twist into something totally different in the end….but I do like DEVO and I think Jim Feotus and Zappa are genius and Gentle Giant have there moments of total unique brilliance (and moments of embarrassing grimness as well, like anyone unfortunately) but I can’t say that they influence us any more than a crow on a stump does.
Sing To God is your more known album. Do you think this is your best album?
No… I sort of like them all in one way or another….a funny thing is that the album our fans seem to dislike the most is one that I am very proud of…. the ‘Heaven Born And Ever Bright’ album which we did back in 1991…it’s got a really weird sound to it…I reckon all our albums sound completely different to each other anyway…unless you hate the stuff and then I suppose they will all sound exactly the same….and shit…and there’s an awful lot of people who share that opinion.
Are you running the label Alphabet Business Concern?
We’ve no idea who is running it, last time we dropped in to where we thought the placwe was, all we found were a load of tiny ants. (and a muddy puddle).
Why do you have published any songs without voice, such us the pirate album Oceanlandworld?
I don’t know what version of OCEANLANDWORLD you have heard, the one I’ve got has got singing all over it, I think somehow a copy of it got sneaked out ages before it was finished and all sounding crap and that. But it’s all finished and on release now…with singing all over it.
Your last line up is a typical rock quartet, but your music is very complex however. It’s true you don’t like to rehearsal?
Hate it. We do like the social aspect of it though, we rehearse maybe twice a year if that, and only if we really have to, like if we’ve got some live shows coming up or an album to do, trouble is we spend most of our rehearsal time at the pub if they let us in, we all been made to live bloody miles away from each other at the moment so we don’t see that much of each other nowadays… so we piddle around for half an hour or so ‘rehearsing’ if you can call it that…. get it all wrong… then go down the pub, get drunk under the excuse of ‘seeing if we can play the stuff arse-holed’ and if we can it must be ok…. trouble is… we’ve got an unhealthy belief that ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ and being totally honest, if it’s not alright on the night we really could not give much of a fuck. It is not laziness… I don’t know what it is….
I can never figure out how bands manage to write songs by ‘jamming’ I couldn’t think of a more horrible nightmare…. apart from the fact that we’d end up with compromised bollocks. It must give you an arm ache and get you really really bored and make all your eyes boil…don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that our musicianship is so fucking great that we don’t have to rehearse or anything because it is not (apart from Jon our guitarist), we’re just lucky because when we do get to play live, for some reason it all turns out fucking great…God knows how.
If you don’t mind me prattling on a bit I’ll tell you about this band I played in for a little while a few years ago called Panixphere, it was a sort of ‘side project’ that me and Jon Poole (our guitarist) and Bic and Dave francolini (from Dark Star and Levitation) did. What we’d do is write and meticulously rehearse this ridiculously complex and stupidly fast stuff with the sole intention of destroying it live. When we did a gig we’d get totally wasted and then barrage our way through the set in three tenths of a second…the end result was a brilliant fucking din based limply around what we’d worked out… there is no way it would have sounded the same if we hadn’t done it like that…but it cleaned our souls and didn’t last very long….what was I saying?
Between 1986 and 1989 you published 3 live albums. Do you plan any album live with the actual line-up? When will be available your new studio album? When another album by Sea Nymphs?
We only stuck them Live albums out to try and generate some money…a new studio album is well on it’s way and will be out later on this year…or maybe early next year…2002 is a nicer sounding date so maybe we’ll put it out then even if it is finished this year (which it will be)…
As for the Sea Nymphs, that band relies on an awful lot of superstition and whatever falling into place, I don’t want to release stuff by the Nymphs willy nilly….the album that came out in 1995 was actually recorded many years before that and the next one waiting to come out was recorded at the same time as the first…and the one to follow that was also recorded back then as well….and so on…I think the Sea Nymphs is special…I’ve no idea what happened when all that stuff was recorded…or how… It involved Witches and woods and snails and wires and a Hare at one point which looked me in the eye and then gave Sarah a penny and a photograph of a Pony.
The tapes are a bit corroded now…we retrieved them from the bottom of a pond that Sarah put them in to keep them safe under water until we needed them but some slime got in. My ‘other’ band Spratleys Japs are about to start another album soon…that’s another bloody story.
Sea Nymphs, Spratley’s Japs, Monsoon Bassoon, Katherine In A Cupboard, Dark Star, Lake Of Puppies, Sidi Bou Said, Shrubbies, Nervous, Does exist a “Cardiac community”?
Yes there is, it’s tendrils spread a lot further as well, a label has been set up for releasing albums by many of these elusive spreadlings…if anyone is interested check out this website www.anyware.co.uk/ame if it’s not up and running yet it will be soon. Or you can write to AME PO Box 1804 Salisbury Wiltshire SP5 5SY England.
How is your brother Jim?
I’ve no idea, he won’t tell me, last time I saw him he was trying to graft some moth wings onto the backs of his hands to make them softer because someone told him that his hands were all rough, the needle made his hands bleed, not in a good way, but in a pathetic way.
I asked to a British musicians whether your lyrics were ironic or poetic. He answered me: “The lyiric of these guys are deep and poetic”. Are you Ok with this opinion?
I don’t mind, but that’s all you’re getting out of me about lyrics.
Personally I think Cardiacs is the best band around the world and Sing To God the best album
Tell me something about your experience with Rough Trade.
There wasn’t really an ‘experience’ with Rough Trade, they put an album out for us and immediately went broke, people do tend to think that we carry a curse, including us, I would strongly recommend that you think twice about including us on that CD that you release with your magazine.
Last question, dog or horse? which do you prefer?
I prefer Both.
(Margen Magazine Spain April 2001)